Capitol Bell Tower blaze proved difficult for firefighters

Posted at 6:47 PM, Jul 26, 2012
and last updated 2012-07-26 18:47:52-04

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) – The Capitol Bell Tower, a historic fixture in downtown Richmond located on the grounds of the State Capitol for hundreds of years, was damaged by fire Wednesday.

The fire started when crews were welding a seam in the ceiling of the tower, the dome at the very top of the structure. Work crews noticed the smoldering fire just after noon. It took Richmond fire crews three hours to extinguish the blaze.

The State Fire Marshall estimates the damage between $75,000 to $100,000.

Virginia Capitol Police's Raymond Goodloe said crews spotted the fire early. 

"It was fortunate people noticed the fire when they did, because it could have continued to smolder and done far more damage than it did," said Goodloe. "This is quite an extensive renovation going on here almost everything on this building in being updated and replaced."

Contractors said the fire did some damage, but because of the tricky location, firefighters ended up damaging more of the structure trying to reach the blaze.

Crews said that despite the setback, they are still planning to finish their work on time in August.

The Capitol Bell Tower was once used to alert people about city fires or other emergencies. It was built in 1825, first as a wooden structure, and the tower remains a defining piece of the Virginia Capitol grounds.